Dead fish float in the Euphrates River in Iraq’s Babylon province. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Thousands of fish have died in Iraq’s Babylon province because of water shortages, pollution, and mismanagement of the fishing industry on the Euphrates River.
"Babylon province woke up today to an environmental catastrophe, which is the Euphrates River filled with dead fish," said a local resident.
"Besides the fish resource that is gone, the water isn't suitable for drinking right now," he added, asking “If the fish, animals, died in this water, then how can humans drink this?"
The Ministry of Agriculture blamed water shortages, disease, and unlicensed fish farming.
"The real reason behind this problem is lack of water resources and existence of unlicensed cages," Hamid al-Nayif, spokesperson for the ministry, told Rudaw.
Bacterial rot, that has plagued Iraq’s fish since the 1980s is also a factor, he added.
There are also no veterinarians supervising the fisheries, he said.
An undersecretary at the ministry said water scarcity was the main cause.
"The essential point is that our water resources have decreased and these water resourced affected the floating fish cages and the movement of water," Dr. Mahdi Dhamad al-Qaysi, technical undersecretary of Iraq's Minister of Agriculture, told state media.
The government has taken action, banning the transfer of minnows between provinces, clearing out all unlicensed fish farms, appointing veterinary doctors to monitor the fisheries, and regulating the industry.
Minister of Agriculture Saleh al-Hassani supervised a field visit to Babylon on Wednesday where he gave directions for the formation of an operations room under his command to investigate the matter and contain the disease.
Iraq is suffering from a water shortage crisis caused by a confluence of factors – climate change, Turkish dams on the transboundary rivers, aging infrastructure, and mismanagement of the resource.